By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Jose Mourinho ran onto the pitch, sought out Pep Guardiola and the two men stood together for several seconds, entwined in an emotional embrace. Barcelona had just beaten Paris Saint-Germain by a single goal to win the 1997 European Cup Winners' Cup. Guardiola was the midfield general, Mourinho the assistant to Bobby Robson. Times were different back then.
Pep and Jose enjoyed a healthy relationship during their time together at the Catalan club. Guardiola, a keen student of the game, talked tactics with the Portuguese during training sessions and a bond developed. The two shared not only a burning passion for football, but also a thirst for knowledge and a fierce competitive edge. Later, though, they would became enemies.
Mutual respect, however, was long-lasting and when Mourinho's Inter arrived at Camp Nou for the second leg of the sides' Champions League semi-final in 2010, Guardiola praised the Portuguese. "If I had known what a great coach he was when he was at Barcelona, I would have told the club to keep him," the Catalan told the media in the pre-match press conference.
The following season, Mourinho was back in Spain as coach of Real Madrid - and a remarkable rivalry began. However, the respect remained and the two men sat together at the Ballon d'Or ceremony in January of 2011. "We spoke, commented on the gala, the pianist, who was really good, we gave each other a couple of elbows and nothing more," the Catalan joked.
|CHELSEA FINAL LOSS HELPED BAYERN
|In many ways, Bayern’s defeat against Chelsea at the Allianz Arena 15 months ago was the start of something, rather than the end.
Losing in such a manner – on their home soil no less – forced them to address their problems in a bid to become the best team in Europe. They opened up the club’s coffers to lure Javi Martinez to the club and the Spaniard was instrumental in their treble win last season, while they wouldn’t have pulled off the biggest coup of last season in bringing Pep Guardiola to the club either.
Now, Bayern have established themselves as Europe’s finest and have the chance to complete their revenge mission against the west Londoners on Friday.
By Enis Koylu
Barca met Madrid four times in the space of 17 days at the end of the 2010-11 campaign and it was after the sides' second clash that Mourinho fuelled the fires. Guardiola had ironically pointed out that the assistant had great eyesight to spot Pedro in an offside position before slotting home what would have been the first goal in the final of the Copa del Rey at Mestalla. Instead, the strike was correctly ruled out and Cristiano Ronaldo headed home in extra time to hand Madrid the victory.
"A new era has begun," Mourinho announced. "Now there is a new group [of coaches] of which only he is part - that criticise when referees make the right decisions..."
But with the sides set to meet again just days later in the Champions League semi-finals, Guardiola hit back with a remarkable rant of his own. "Which is your camera, Jose?" he asked a packed press room at the Santiago Bernabeu. "I guess they all are," he then shrugged, before claiming he did not want to compete with Mourinho in the media. "He is the f**king boss, the f**king man, and he can have his own title for that."
Guardiola got the better of Mourinho that time as Barca beat Madrid and claimed the Champions League, only after the Portuguese had hit back again following that first leg at the Bernabeu. "Guardiola has only won one Champions League and it would embarrass me. I would be ashamed to have won it with the 'Scandal of Stamford Bridge' and if he wins it this year it will be the 'Scandal of the Bernabeu'..."
Pep had seemed genuinely hurt when he remembered the two men had worked together for four years at Barcelona, but there was no way back now. And Guardiola became increasingly irritated by questions from the media about Mourinho, what he had said and how he would respond. The sighs became greater, the frustration tangible.
Mourinho overcame Guardiola's Barca in La Liga in 2011-12, before the Catalan coach set off for a sabbatical. "It's his life, but for me it's unthinkable to take a sabbatical. He is younger than me, but I'm not tired," the Portuguese quipped.
And the Portuguese appeared to belittle Pep's Bayern ahead of Wednesday's Super Cup clash with Chelsea. "It was Jupp Heynckes' team that was the best in Europe. Now that they have a new coach and new players, I am not sure if they are as good."
Former Barcelona and Spain defender Miguel Angel Nadal, who played alongside Guardiola and was at the Catalan club when Mourinho was a coach at Camp Nou, remembers a much more positive rapport.
"The two of them had a good relationship," he told Goal. "Guardiola, perhaps because of his position on the pitch, always had an interest [in tactics], he that quality, that desire to learn, and he liked to hold conversations with the coaches. They got on well."
So what changed?
"I don't know if the relationship has been totally lost, but it was lost at a given time," Nadal explains. "The Barca-Madrid rivalry makes a big difference. Mourinho is a coach who feels comfortable in the press, and the rivalry between two clubs with similar objectives is fierce, but it went beyond a strictly sporting sense. There were times when Jose went too far."
However, Mourinho once claimed there was more to Guardiola than met the eye. "There are others who sell a different image to me, but we are all the same." Pep laughed off those quotes: "If that is true then I will have to take a look at my behaviour," he replied.
The Catalan's charismatic media image, however, is far removed from his fiery personality on the pitch and the training ground - and Mourinho did not like it one bit.
"Everyone gives the image they want to portray," Nadal says. "But the two know each other personally and it's possible that the Guardiola image or 'product' may have annoyed Mourinho."
"The main thing is that they are two lovers of football." On Friday, however, there will be no love lost between them.
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